I am writing to you from a state of superchillness.
When I stepped into the sensory deprivation chamber at LifeFloat in South Lake Union, I did not expect to emerge feeling "superchill." Confronting total blackness for 60 minutes horrified me; I didn't want to have to work through whatever psychological shit this mental colonic might snake out.
And then there was what Charles Mudede, the Stranger's resident philosopher and film critic, told me: "The point of sensory deprivation is to come as close as possible to death. People will tell you it's about returning to the womb, but it's about the coffin. It's about death."
In the waiting room, I found a small pile of books and a selection of teas beside a water cooler. The books included Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer and Zen Therapy, which might give you a sense of the assumed clientele (Amazon is next door).
After a few minutes, brand ambassador James Kilgallon, who seemed very relaxed, greeted me. Beyond describing the benefits of lower cortisol levels, he was shy about making medical claims for floating, but he did mention that some cancer patients say it reduces pain and stress, and that one Amazon employee floats to treat her recently acquired insomnia.
Some sensory deprivation places use claustrophobic-looking pods or tanks, and some use "float cabins," which look a walk-in refrigerator filled with ankle-deep water. LifeFloat offers a private, tiled room with your own sink, toilet, shower, and towel. The only other one like it in the world, Kilgallon told me, is in Oregon.
Serene bluish-purple light bathed the room and made for an excellent sexting backdrop. I stepped naked into the float tank, which looked like a big hot tub in a spa. I have trouble floating in lakes or oceans, but the 1,500 pounds of Epsom salts sufficiently buoyed me.
Once the lights and Gregorian chanting cut out (I could pick my mood music from a list of spa tunes), I noted a lot of mental activity up front. The room expanded to the size of the universe. My internal gyroscope knocked a little off kilter, but after a few moments this feeling subsided, as did a few brief auditory hallucinations. Midway through, a thin layer of salt crusted across my belly, and I took some pleasure in expanding and contracting my belly so a new crust would form. At times I was so still that it felt as if I were lying on solid ground.
That sensation was the closest I got to the grave. The occasional slosh of water, the lub-dub of my heart beating in my brain, and my little billows of breath all reaffirmed my aliveness. But really, I was lying on an expensive waterbed (the cost is $89 for a single session) taking a complex nap.
Before I could register anything like boredom, the soothing sounds of a pan flute played in some distant corner of my mind, the blue lights kicked back on, and my session was over. I had the feeling of not knowing if I'd slept. I felt stiff and had an intense urge to stretch and crack all of my bones. I yearned to slip through a crack in the earth and land in my bed. But, alas, I had to walk up Denny to Capitol Hill. I took to the hill, content to rest when the orange hand of the crossing lights told me to rest.